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RoseLee Goldberg on historicizing performance

IMAGINE STARTING OUT as a painter and having no recourse to twentieth-century paintings: no Matisse, no Pollock, no Guston. Now, imagine starting out as an artist who thinks of sound, space, movement, and the body as raw material and who lacks access to the works of Yves Klein, Joseph Beuys, or Joan Jonas. It’s unimaginable for the artist who works in paint but standard for the artist who works in performance.

But is this necessarily so? Is this disconnect from history an inevitable component of performance, because the practice is by nature ephemeral? Or is something else at issue—lack of access to and familiarity with the hundred-year history of “live art”? Though the value of access to the “real thing” in museums should never be underestimated, young painters learn a great deal by looking at reproductions in magazines or slide projections in lecture halls. Their real advantage, therefore,

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